Today we began the first leg of the Via Appia from Porta Capena (near the end of the Circus Maximus) to Porta S. Sabastiano. After visiting the Tomb of the Scippio’s we deviated slightly to the Via Latina where we visited the Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas. Interestingly Pomponius Hylas (mosaic depicted below) was a later interloper into this subterranean columbarium dating to 20AD (Claridge). The columbarium was probably initially built for GRANIVS NESTOR, named on the elaborately stuccoed aedicula resting on a podium in the centre of the underground space.
Ostium in Latin means mouth and indeed the town of Ostia was Rome’s main port until the foundation of Portus, which left Ostia a purely residential area. Ostia remains incredibly preserved due to its abandonment on the 9th Cent. This preservation allows the “beating heart of Rome” (S.Keay), to be fully explored and analysed and compared to the urban megalopolis of Rome.
My favourite building in Ostia is the Square of the Corporations (located just behind the theatre). This complex building consists of a huge mosaiced porticus with individual ‘stalls’ decorated in Severan mosaic decoration, documenting the corporations of merchants and ship owners who had their offices here. Below is a picture of some of my favourite mosaic designs.
No post yesterday as we had a free day!
Today we explored the Ancient Via Flaminia, escaping in the afternoon to the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta on the 9th mile of the Via Flaminia. Depicted below is a reconstructed laurel grove, indeed the ancient sources tell of the arboreal mythology of this Villa.
“Livia was returning to her estate near Veii, immediately after her marriage with Augustus, an eagle which flew by dropped into her lap a white hen, holding in its beak a sprig of laurel, just as the eagle had carried it off. Livia resolved to rear the fowl and plant the sprig, whereupon such a great brood of chickens was hatched that to this day the villa is called Ad Gallinas, and such a grove of laurel sprang up, that the Caesars gathered their laurels from it when they were going to celebrate triumphs.” (Suetonius, Life of Galba, 1.)
Today we had a break from site visits, instead in the evening we had a lecture on “Materials used in Construction and Decoration”. I believe the huge scope of materials used in Classical Rome for construction is best emphasised by this image of the ‘marble scale’ housed in the Palatine Antiquarium.